U.S. House of Representatives Elects a New Speaker – Finally

On October 2, 2023, members of the U.S. House of Representatives voted, on party lines, to throw Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) out of office. In the parlance of the Rules of the House, the office of Speaker of the House of Representatives was declared to be vacant.

For the next 22 days, House Republicans, who hold a majority in the House, tried unsuccessfully to find a successor acceptable to an ideologically diverse House Republican caucus. The initial vote vacating the office of Speaker and the difficulty in finding a replacement is due in large part to the slim margin between the required 217 votes needed to elect a Speaker (and pass any bill) and the 221 members of the Republican caucus.

On the fourth try, the House elected four term Representative Mike Johnson (R-LA), first elected to the House in 2017. Johnson has been described as a backbencher with no leadership experience in the House. Before being elected Speaker, he served on the House Judiciary Committee and the House Armed Services Committee. A review of his legislative activities as a member of the House show him to be strongly conservative. While he has not taken any unique stands in the area of science, his health-related activities have focused on strong anti-abortion views and opposition to LGBTQ+ issues, particularly gender-affirming care.

The challenges facing Johnson now are no different than the ones that spelled the downfall of the last Speaker. He will have to promptly work with the Democratic Senate and White House to craft a Continuing Resolution (CR) that keeps the government open while he works to get the Fiscal Year 2024 federal budget passed. Funding for Ukraine and Israel are also now on his RADAR. All of which need to be done yesterday.

About the Author:

Kevin M. Wilson serves as Director of Public Policy and Media Relations for The American Society for Cell Biology. He's worked as the Legislative Director for U.S. Congressman Robert Weygand (D-RI) and as a Legislative Assistant for U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell (D-RI). He has a BA in Politics and American Government from the Catholic University of America. Email: kwilson@ascb.org